It was early in October when my friend Jim Stack called me about a
fishing trip to Maine for wild brookies. The dates were the 28th, 29th,
30th, and we would be coming home on the 31st. Usually it takes me
a day or so to decide, but wild brookies - my answer was, "Jimmy!
Does a teddy bear have a cotton butt? Who else is in our cabin?"
By Charlie Place (Host Charlie)
Jimmy laughed and answered, "Jim Hagen and Roger Ploudre."
We made our plans to meet and drive up to Maine. I didn't ask Jim any
questions about the destination, but I should have because as it turned out
we were fishing Specter Creek. Fishing places get names like that for a
reason, and if I had asked, maybe I would have been forewarned. And
maybe all of us would have been all right.
We traveled to Maine in a green rented van. Jimmy explained to us on
the way that the cabin we were staying in was twenty miles from a paved
road. He said that you could drive the twenty miles over a dirt trail, but
the camp people wouldn't guarantee arrival. "However," he added,
"There is a shortcut across a lake." He had made plans for us to meet
a boat at a landing not far from the cabins. Also, he said that the craft
was big enough to take us and our gear in one load.
The skipper walked stooped over, which made him appear quite a bit
shorter than he was and made his long arms hang close to the ground. He
wore a shoulder length, ink-black ponytail and a giant, wild mustache that
covered both of his lips. Bits of food hung from the long, thick, mustache
hairs. He wouldn't look you in the eye when he spoke, and his voice had a
hollow resonance to it. When we left the landing, I asked him how long it
would take us to get to the cabin. He turned his hood covered head and
looked at me over his left shoulder with one eye. I swear I saw something
move in his mustache. It looked like a big black ant. Then I thought,
"Nah that couldn't be."
"Bout twenty minutes," he echoed.
Anyway, after motoring the twenty minutes, we could see the landing place
and Igor started slowing down. When we got to the dock, there was a
small, rail thin, gray man waiting for us. Roger threw him a line; he
secured the boat and then introduced himself. "Hi! I'm Bones," he
said. He stuck out his hand and I took it. His noodle-like hand was
chilly and moist. When I let go of it I had to fight a sudden urge to rinse
my hand in the lake. He shook the other guys hands too and I could see
they were uncomfortable. We all got out of the craft and Igor started
handing our stuff up to Bones. The first bag that Bones grabbed caused
him to fall down. I mean, he didn't trip or anything. He collapsed like
there was nothing holding him up.
Roger asked, "Are you all right man?"
Bones stood up and grabbed another bag as if nothing had happened.
"Yeah!" He answered, "No problem." He finished loading our stuff
on a cart and asked us to follow him to our cabin. On the way, he
collapsed twice more. He unloaded our things and put them on the
porch of the cabin. As he left, he pointed to another building and said,
"Dinner is in an hour." As soon as Bones was out of sight, we all turned
and looked at Jimmy Stack. Jim knew what we wanted to know without
us having to ask.
He said, "I don't know! I just picked this place out of a magazine and
phoned. It seemed all right. I mean, the ad said, Neewollah Camps,
wild brookies guaranteed."
"Yeah," Roger answered, "It seems like there's something not right here though."
"Okay," Jim Hagen said. "We're here, so let's get our things unpacked,
and get ready for dinner." We all agreed; after all he was right, and
well, wild bookies.
We unpacked, rigged up our fly rods and hung our waders and vests
from rusty nails on the porch of the cabin. It was quiet while we were
doing that. Now that I look back, I think we all must have been wondering
the same thing. "What have we gotten ourselves into?" We were in a row
of three cabins. They were all built alike, so I assumed each one slept four
people. There were fishermen in cabins one and two because there was
fishing stuff on the porches.
It had been about an hour, so we walked over to the building that Bones
had pointed to. Inside there were three set tables with four chairs at each
table. A few minutes later, two groups of four fishermen walked into
the room. They didn't acknowledge us at all. They just walked to their
chairs and sat down. It was weird I tell you; they had this look about them.
I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it was sort of a wet look, you know,
like they had been in the water a long time, but were not wet. But then
again, I've seen toffee-nosed fly fishermen before.
At the back of the room there was a set of double doors. I assumed that
on the other side of them you would find the kitchen. After a few minutes
the doors flew open confirming my hunch, and an elderly woman rushed
out of the kitchen holding a tray full of food over her right shoulder. She
served the other two tables first. When she got to our table, you could
tell that she was indeed elderly. In her eighties I'd say. She was about
five feet five inches tall and had long gray hair that draped on her shoulders.
Her nose was long and narrow. She wore a headband with Native American
beadwork on it. Her tee shirt read "Neewollah Camps," the words were
printed over a picture of a brook trout. The tee was tucked into a pair of
jeans that were held up by a beaded belt. "Hi fellas," she said as she passed
our plates from the heavy tray. Her voice cackled through a couple of
yellow teeth. Then she said, "If you need any thing else, just give a holler
in the kitchen." (Up until now I couldn't take my eyes off the old lady because
I thought I could see a fat green house fly wing in and out of her mouth as
she spoke.) "Nah! That couldn't be," I thought.
After dinner we went back to the cabin. We tried telling a few fish stories
but not one of us could keep our eyes open, so we went to bed. At
breakfast the other fishermen were still not talking to us and Bones was
serving us. He was pushing a cart with our food on it instead of carrying
trays as the old women did. Bones only fell a couple of times so nothing
out of the ordinary happened at breakfast. Well, except for one thing.
I'm almost sure that there was something moving around under Bone's shirt.
"Nah!" I thought, "That couldn't be. He'd feel it."
There was a map of the river in the cabin and the places to fish were marked.
We picked a spot that we thought was big enough for the four of us and went
fishing. It was about a half-mile walk down a rough dirt road and then another
quarter mile on a trail through the woods. Soon we found the creek and the
spot that was marked on the map. It was a perfect place to fish. The pool
was about one hundred yards long with some riffles at the top. The creek
moved fast, so behind every exposed rock there was a run and there were
plenty of rocks. We stood on the bank for a few seconds just watching the
water. Roger began pointing out rises. It seemed that there were fish rising
in every run. A fly fishers dream! We spread out and began to fish. I could
see a large brook trout rising well within casting range. I tied on a size
twelve-woodchuck caddis. What the heck! If you can get them to eat a
big dry fly then why not. The trout came up and took the fly without hesitation.
I set the hook but there was nothing on the end of my line. "He spit it out before
I set the hook," I thought. I tried a second, third and forth cast. The same
thing happened. I checked the fly. It was okay. Below the big bookie I
spotted a bigger fish feeding on the surface. I waded into position and made
another cast. The same thing happened! Jim Hagen wasn't too far from me,
so I called his name. When he looked up I gave him a shrug. He shrugged
back, so I figured that something was going on that he didn't understand either.
Then I heard Roger's voice behind me. "Charlie?" he said. Just then Jimmy
Stack showed up. Sure enough, all four of us were having the same experience.
Big brookies were taking our flies but we weren't hooking them. We watched
the stream. The same brookies just kept on rising. Rise after rise after rise.
Finally Roger said it. "I say we go back to the cabin, pack up, and get out
of here!" None of us were slow to agree.
We rushed back to the cabin, packed our stuff, and headed for the dock.
When we got to where we thought the dock was, there was no dock, just
a pile of broken boards. Jim Hagen asked, "Is this the right place?"
"Yeah I think so," Jimmy Stack answered.
Just then we heard the sound of a boat motor. "If it's Igor, we tell him we're
leaving now!" I said. Everyone nervously nodded yes.
When the boat came in sight, we saw that it wasn't Igor. We waved our
arms to try and get the drivers attention. He spotted us and came over.
"What are you fellas doing here?" he asked. Now we could see that it
was a game warden.
"Fishing," we said in unison.
"Fishing?" The warden said. "How'd you guys get here?" We started telling
him the story, as we loaded ourselves into the boat. For a second, I thought
that it was the same boat that we had arrived in.
"Nah!" I thought, "Impossible."
I turned and pointed to the cabins as I began our story. There were no visible
cabins or lodge. They had disappeared in a heavy fog that had started to
settle in on the land. We were all talking at once when the warden held up
his hands and said in a loud authoritative voice, "Hold on fellas. One at a time!"
Roger told the warden about the old lady and Igor. "Don't forget Bones,"
Jim Hagen piped up. Jimmy Stack told him about the trout. The warden
looked at us, well, like we were a little off or something.
"Fellas," he said, "There hasn't been anyone living out here for fifty years.
The people you are describing sounds like old lady Neewollah and two
of her sons. The four of them lived out here. They sold a few logs and
rented the cabins to fishermen. The thin one, Bones, you said? A tree
fell on him; every bone in his body was broken, so they say. His brother,
the one you call Igor, picked up the tree trying to help, but the weight of
it sunk him in the wet ground and crushed his spine. They found him with
the tree still on his shoulders." It was quiet in the boat for a while as we
motored across the lake. I'm sure we were all having the same scary
thoughts and were wearing the same pale expressions.
"What happened to the old lady?" I finally asked.
"Know one knows," the warden said. "She was never seen again."
"You said, two of her sons. Are there others?" I asked. As soon as the
question was out of my mouth I realized that he had said, "The four of
them lived out there." We had only seen three. The warden smiled. I
saw a black beetle crawl out of his shirt and onto his shoulder then it
waddled down the arm of his green warden's coat.
"Yeah!" he said, "She had three sons." He turned the boat back toward
the lodge. The camps were completely fogged in now . . . "The third one
died in a boating accident, bringing four sports across the lake. Hit the
dock full throttle in the fog," he said. "No one made it."
The next morning while we were on the cabin porch getting ready to go
fishing, I swear I saw a spider creep out of Roger's ear and crawl under
his shirt collar. "Nah! Couldn't be, I thought." ~ Charlie Place
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